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Solar Roof Shingles

Solar roof shingles: types, and costs

Solar roof shingles are the solution for those who want to install a photovoltaic system without altering the roof’s aesthetics. Discover types and costs.

Installing a photovoltaic system on a roof can sometimes encounter obstacles (such as landscape constraints) or particular aesthetic needs that must be respected. A valid alternative to traditional panels is represented by solar roof shingles.

Solar roof shingles are special tiles inserted on building roofs capable of absorbing the energy produced by the sun. The efficiency of solar roof shingles depends on numerous factors such as solar radiation, exposure, and roof tilt.

To define all this, you can use solar software to verify in real-time the correct positioning of the photovoltaic field based on the actual conditions of the installation site (tilt, orientation, irradiations, shading, etc.).

Solar roof shingles

Let’s analyze in detail what solar roof shingles are, how many types exist, and how much they cost.

What are solar roof shingles?

Solar roof shingles are nothing more than normal roof tiles on which a photovoltaic cell is applied to capture solar energy and convert it into electricity. All cells are connected in series to form a real photovoltaic module.

The mounting systems for photovoltaic panels on tiles are not visible, thus offering an ideal solution for those who want to benefit from solar energy without compromising the roof’s aesthetic appearance. Additionally, they are particularly advantageous in contexts where landscape constraints prevent the installation of traditional photovoltaic systems.

For example, in historical areas where the authorities may deny authorization for the installation of traditional panels, solar roof shingles are an effective alternative due to their reduced visual impact. It’s worth noting, for instance, the recent installation of a photovoltaic roof covering on the famous Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii for the internal lighting of the precious painted walls, whose solar roof shingles are identical to those of ancient Roman ones.

How are solar roof shingles made?

Aesthetically, solar roof shingles resemble common tiles, generally also in material and color. The peculiarity lies in integrating a small photovoltaic cell into the usual ceramic base support, which functions to produce electricity.

The main materials used for the composition of solar roof shingles are:

  • silicon: it is the most common material and can be used in mono or polycrystalline form. Silicon offers high purity percentages but requires direct exposure to the sun to maximize efficiency. Consequently, silicon photovoltaic tiles are ideal for south-facing roofs;
  • amorphous silicon: this type of silicon can generate energy even in conditions of less intense sunlight. However, energy yield is generally lower compared to crystalline silicon;
  • CIS or CIGS: these tiles are composed of copper indium selenide or copper indium gallium selenide and offer high efficiency.

Solar roof shingle vs. Traditional photovoltaic system: differences

When it comes to photovoltaic panels and solar roof shingles, in both cases, reference is made to two technologies useful for increasing the use of renewable energies.

The main differences between tiles and photovoltaic panels are as follows:

  • the cost of tiles is higher despite lower yield, as tiles are more affected by shading caused by external installations and/or external agents;
  • with solar tiles, it is possible to save on scaffolding and installation costs since they are installed like normal tiles;
  • with solar roof shingles, there will be lower disposal costs and less environmental hazards;
  • tiles reduce the building’s heat dissipation and also have a waterproof function.

Solar roof shingles: types

Solar roof shingles are available in various variants that adapt to specific needs:

  • Portuguese-style solar roof shingles;
  • Marseille-style solar roof shingles;
  • Photovoltaic tiles;
  • Transparent solar roof shingles;
  • Solar thermal tiles.

Portuguese-style Solar Roof Shingles

Portuguese-style solar roof shingles are distinguished by their characteristic S shape and can be made of materials such as clay or plastic. The photovoltaic layer, which converts sunlight into electricity, is positioned on the flat side of the tile. They are considered among the most economical options on the market.

Marseille-style Solar Roof Shingles

Marseille solar roof shingles maintain the traditional shape of Marseille tiles, without the characteristic hump, but incorporate a photovoltaic panel in the central area. They can be made of brick or plastic polymers.

Photovoltaic Tiles

Photovoltaic tiles feature flat photovoltaic panels placed on the curved part of clay tiles, with a silicon layer on a movable plate. They offer a vintage look ideal for historic homes or villages. Although more expensive than traditional tiles, they are easier to install.

Transparent Solar Roof Shingles

Transparent solar roof shingles are made of glass, polycarbonate, or PVC and allow more light to pass through to promote natural brightness in interior spaces. They are expensive and have lower energy yield but offer good weather resistance.

Solar Thermal Tiles

Solar thermal tiles are designed for the production of hot water for domestic use.

Advantages and disadvantages of solar roof shingles

The main advantage of solar roof shingles is certainly the aesthetic one, which allows for installation even in the presence of landscape constraints.

Other advantages may include:

  • good durability over time;
  • possibility to take advantage of tax deductions provided for photovoltaics;
  • excellent resistance to weather agents;
  • reduction of the building’s heat dissipation and also have a waterproof function;
  • possibility to arrange the tiles in a scattered order on the roof to cope with possible shading, thereby optimizing electricity production.

The main disadvantage, however, is the high cost compared to conventional photovoltaics. Furthermore, they can be less efficient because they are more sensitive to shading caused not only by roof geometry, but also by the presence of obstacles such as antennas and chimneys.

Photovoltaic roof tiles: costs

The cost of photovoltaic roof tiles is influenced by several factors, including the type of model, performance and size of the tiles used in the installation. In order to assess the overall cost of photovoltaic roof tiles, it is first necessary to determine the desired total output for the system and then calculate the number of tiles required based on size and performance. Labour costs, old roof tiles disposal and professional advice must be added to this.